Removal of Sculptures in Baghdad's Institute of Fine Arts

This arrived in my inbox today via H-Islamart:

According to a news report on Al-Arabiyya news channel (in Arabic) the Iraqi Ministry of Education has notified the administration of Baghdad's Institute of Fine Arts (Ma'had al-Funun al-Jamila) that they have to remove the sculptures in the institute's garden, or else they have to build a higher wall so that they cannot be viewed from the outside. According to the report the reason for this was that "painting and sculpture are prohibited according to Islamic Law". The Ministry of Education has also canceled the Institute's departments of Music and Theater, apparently for the same reason.

The academic in me is quite fascinated and would love to learn more about the details of the debates in Iraq. Anyway, for now, here’s the English translation of the Arabic language Al-Arabiyya article.

Without giving any reasons over the decision Iraq’s education ministry bans theatre & music classes

DUBAI (AlArabiya.net)

The Iraqi Ministry of Education has banned theatre and music classes in Baghdad's Fine Arts Institute, and ordered the removal of statues showcased at the entrance of the institute without explaining the move, but some of the students mull religious reasons as the real motive.

Prohibiting theatre and music in the institute for its so called “violation” of religion is only an individual opinion touted by some people hailing from religious parties, but it is contradictory to the opinion of most religious clerics and scholars,” said Dhaya al-Shakarchi, a writer and a politicians, told Alarabiya.net.

Students have also fears that the ban will extend to include other arts such as photography, directing, sculpting, and drawing.

Those individuals have a mentality that is against the spirit of creativity, art, freedoms, and even happiness in society, because they misunderstand religion, and if they went back to religious references, they won't find consensus that these arts are of violation to religion, “said al-Shakarchi.

Some religious parties have also opposed reviving the Babylon Festival that used to occur every summer in Iraq’s Hilla province, an hour drive from Baghdad, saying that music and dance are prohibited while observing the birthday of a religious figure which coincided with the festival's timing.

Religious parties have also closed down clubs. This snowballed in protests by Iraqi intellectuals to condemn tightening of freedoms, and one conspicuous slogan appeared during their marches was “Baghdad is not Kandahar”.

"The zealously banning of freedoms won't be long in Iraq. There are Iraqis that reject such moves," al-Shakarchi said, adding, "the voices of intellectuals, and freedom and creativity lovers will be louder to reject all of this.

(Translated from Arabic by Dina al-Shibeeb)

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